Crime and Its Causes
by William Douglas Morrison
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Before the era of great cities the township in the West used to exorcise some of the functions at present discharged in India by the system of caste. But the township in the old sense of the word, with its settled population and the common eye upon all its members, has to a large extent disappeared. The influence of the family is at the same time being constantly weakened by the migratory habits modern industrialism entails on the population; in a word, the old constraining force, which used to hold society together, are almost gone, and nothing effective has sprung up to replace them.

In these circumstances what is to be done? It is useless attempting to restore the past. That never has been accomplished successfully; all attempts in that direction look as if they were opposed to the nature of things. It is among the living and vigorous forces of the present that we must look for help. I shall content myself by mentioning one of these forces, namely Trade Societies. It seems a pity that these societies should confine their operations merely to the limited object of forcing up wages. That object is, of course, a perfectly laudable and legitimate one, but it is surely not the supreme and only end for which a Trade Society should exist. A Trade Society would do well to teach its members how to spend as well as how to earn. What, indeed, is the use of higher wages to a certain section of the members of Trades-Unions? The increased pay, instead of being a blessing, becomes a curse; it leads to drunkenness, to wife-beating, to disorder in the public streets, to assaults on the police, to crimes of violence and blood. It is a melancholy fact that the moment wages begin to rise, the statistics of crime almost immediately follow suit, and at no period are there more offences of all kinds against the person than when material prosperity is at its height.

It lies well within the functions of such Trades-Unions as possess an enlightened regard for the welfare of their members, to introduce a code of regulations which would tend to minimise some of the evils which have just been mentioned. It would immeasurably raise the status of the Union, if certain disciplinary measures could be adopted against members convicted of offences against the law. In the professions of law and medicine it is the custom at the present time to expel members who are proved guilty of serious offences of this description, and unquestionably the dread of expulsion exercises a most salutary influence on the conduct of all persons belonging to these professions. It would be possible for Trade organisations to accomplish much without resorting to this rigorous treatment; and the real object for which such societies exist—the well-being of the members—would be attained much more effectively than is the case at present. Wages are but the means to an end; the end is individual, domestic and social welfare, and it is only a half measure to supply the means unless something is also done to secure the end.



Let us now approach the question of temperature and crime from another point of view. International statistics indicate pretty clearly that warm regions exercise an injurious effect on the conduct of European peoples. Does the information furnished by these statistics stand alone, or is it supported by the result of investigations conducted in a different field? To this vital question it will be our endeavour to supply an answer. In the annual reports of the Prison Commissioners there is an instructive diagram showing the mean number of prisoners in the local prisons of England and Wales on the first Tuesday of each month. This diagram has been published for a considerable number of years, and if we take any period of six years it is remarkable to observe the unfailing regularity with which crime begins to decrease as soon as the summer is over and the temperature begins to fall. From the month of October till the month of February in the following year, the prison population continues almost steadily to diminish; from the month of February till the month of October, the same population, allowing for pauses in its progress and occasional deflections in its course, mounts upwards with the rising temperature. According to the last sextennial diagram of the Prison Commissioners, which embraces the six years ended March, 1884, the mean number of prisoners in the local prisons of England and Wales was, on the first Tuesday in February, 17,600; on the first Tuesday in April it had risen to 18,400; on the first Tuesday in July it had reached nearly 19,000; on the first Tuesday in October it culminated in 19,200. From this date onwards the numbers decreased just as steadily as they had previously risen, reaching their lowest point in February, when the upward movement again commenced. The steadiness and regularity of this rise and fall of the prison population, according to the season of the year, goes on with such wonderful precision that it must proceed from the operation of some permanent cause. What is this permanent cause? Is it economic, social, or climatic?

Is it economic? It is sometimes asserted that the increase of crime in the summer months is due to the large number of tramps who leave the workhouses after the winter is over and roam the country in search of employment. Many of these wanderers, it is said, are arrested for vagrancy; in summer they swell the prison population just as they swell the workhouse population in winter. This explanation of the increase of crime in summer contains so many elements of probability, that it has come to be rather widely accepted by students of criminal phenomena. It has not, however, been my good fortune to meet with any facts or statistics of sufficient weight to establish the validity of this explanation. As far as I can ascertain it is an explanation which has obtained currency almost entirely through its own intrinsic probability; it is believed, but it has not been proved. Let us proceed to put it to the test. For this purpose we shall select the county of Surrey—a fairly typical English county, composed partly of town and partly of country. In the county of Surrey during the month of July, 1888, sixty per cent. fewer persons were imprisoned for vagrancy than in the following month of January, 1889. As far as Surrey is concerned, these figures effectually dispose of the idea that vagrancy is more common in summer than in winter; as a matter of fact they demonstrate that the very opposite is the case. Surrey is the only county for which I have been able to obtain trustworthy statistics, but there is every reason to believe that the statistics of Surrey reveal on a limited scale what the whole of England, if figures were procurable, would reveal on a large scale. Assuming, then, that what holds good for Surrey is equally valid for the rest of England, the conclusion is forced upon us that the augmentation of crime in summer does not arise from an increase of vagrants and others arrested and convicted under the Vagrancy Acts while in search of work or pretending to be in search of it. The assumption that such is the case is quite unwarranted by the facts so far as they are obtainable, and another explanation must be sought of the greater prevalence of crime in summer as compared with winter.

An economic cause of an opposite character to vagrancy has by some been considered as accounting for the facts now under consideration. In the summer months, work as a rule is more easily procured; people in consequence have more money to spend; drunkenness becomes more common, and the high prison population of summer is to be attributed to drink. That there is a greater consumption of drink when work becomes more plentiful is a perfectly correct statement which has been verified over and over again, and it is also equally correct to say that drinking leads its victims to the police court. But it has to be remembered that in almost all cases of drunkenness the magistrate allows the alternative of a fine. A much larger percentage of fines is paid in summer than in winter, the result being that the increase of drunkenness in summer does not disproportionally increase the size of the prison population. In July, 1888, as compared with January, 1889, cases of felony and assault, followed by imprisonment, increased in the county of Surrey 20 and 28 per cent. respectively, while drunkenness on the other hand only increased 18 per cent. The reason of this relatively small increase of imprisonment for drunkenness does not arise from the fact that there is less drunkenness in proportion to the other forms of crime; it is owing to the greater facility with which this offence can be purged by the payment of a fine. It is more easily purged in this fashion in summer than in winter, because people have more money in their pockets. Money, in short, acts in two capacities which neutralise each other; on the one hand it brings more persons before the magistrates on charges of drunkenness; on the other hand, it enables more persons to escape with the simple penalty of a fine. The prison population is, therefore, not unduly swollen in summer by the undoubted increase in drinking during that season of the year; drinking has, in fact, less to do with that increase than any other cause.

The preceding observations on vagrancy and drinking will suffice to show that as far as these two factors are concerned, the rise of the prison population in the warm weather cannot be explained on economic grounds. Are there any social habits which will account for it? Change of seasons has a notable effect on social habits. In the cold days of winter, the great mass of the population live as much as possible within the shelter of their own home; as long as the short days and the cheerless and dismal weather continue, there is little to tempt them out of doors and to bring them into contact with each other. But with the advance of spring this condition of things is changed; the lengthening days, the milder atmosphere, the more abundant sunshine offer increased facilities for social intercourse. Crowds of people are thrown together, quarrelling and disorders arise, which call for the interference of the police to be followed shortly after by a sentence of imprisonment. The growth of international intercourse is said to make for peace; the growth of social intercourse, admirable as it is in many respects, has the unfortunate drawback of mating for black eyes and broken heads. Admitting the truth of this serious indictment against our social instincts, and no one can deny that it does contain a considerable amount of truth, the fact still remains that weather is indirectly if not directly the source from which the increase of crime in summer proceeds. It is the good weather that multiplies occasions for human intercourse; the multiplication of these facilities augments the volume of crime; and thus it comes to pass, that the conduct of society is, at least, indirectly affected by changes of season and the oscillations of temperature.

But it is also directly affected by these causes, as I shall now proceed to show. In one of the principal London prisons the average prison population during the months of June, July and August for the five years ended August, 1889 was 1,061, and the daily average number of punishments amounted to 9 and a fraction per thousand. The average population during the winter months of December, January, February, for the five years ended February, 1890, was 1009, and the daily average number of punishments amounted to 7 and a fraction per thousand. According to these statistics, we have an increase of 2 punishments per day, or 12 per week (omitting Sundays) to every thousand prisoners in the three summer months as compared with the three winter months. In other words, there is a greater tendency among the inmates of prisons to commit offences against prison regulations in summer than in winter. In what way is this manifest tendency to be accounted for? If prisoners were free men living under a variety of conditions, and subject to a host of complex influences, it would be possible to adduce all sorts of causes for the existence of such a phenomenon, and it would be by no means a difficult matter to find plausible arguments in support of each and all of them. But the almost absolute similarity of conditions under which imprisoned men live excludes at one stroke an enormous mass of complicating factors, and reduces the question to its simplest elements. Here are a thousand men living in the same place under the same rules of discipline, occupied in the same way, fed on the same materials, with the same amount of exercise, the same hours of sleep; in fact, with similarity of life brought almost to the point of absolute identity; no alteration takes place in these conditions in summer as compared with winter, yet we find that there are more offences committed by them in the hotter season than in the colder. In what way, except on the ground of temperature, is this difference to be explained. The economic and social factors discussed by us in connection with the increase of crime do not here come into play. All persons in prison are living under the same social and economic conditions in hot weather as well as in cold. The only changes to which they are subjected are cosmical; cosmical causes are accordingly the only ones which will account adequately for the facts. Of these cosmical causes, temperature is by far the most conspicuous, and it may therefore be concluded that the increase of prison offences in summer is attributable to the greater heat.

Seeing, then, that temperature produces these effects inside prison walls, it is only reasonable to infer that it produces similar effects on the outside world. The larger number of offences against prison discipline which take place in the hot weather have their counterpart in the larger number of offences committed against the criminal law during the same season of the year. The conclusions arrived at with respect to the action of season are supported by the conclusions already reached with respect to the action of climate. In fact, both sets of conclusions support each other; both of them point to the operation of the same cause.

To any one who may still feel reluctant to admit the intimate relation between cosmical conditions and crime I would point out that suicide—a somewhat similar disorder in the social organism—likewise increases and diminishes under the influences of temperature. "We cannot help acknowledging," says Dr. Morselli, in his work on "Suicide," "that through the whole of Europe the greater number of suicides happen in the two warm seasons. This regularity in the annual distribution of suicide is too great to be attributed to chance or to the human will. As the number of violent deaths can be predicted from year to year with extreme probability in any particular country, so can the average of every season also be foreseen; in fact, these averages are so constant from one period to another as to have almost the specific character of a given statistical series." Professor von Oettingen in his valuable work, "Die Moralstatistik," comes to the very same conclusions as Morselli, although his point of view is entirely different. After mentioning several of the principal States of Europe, the statistics of which he had examined, Von Oettingen goes on to say that it may be accepted as a general law that the prevalence of suicide in the different months of the year rises and falls with the sun—in June and July it is most rampant; in November, December and January it descends to a minimum. In London there are many more suicides in the sunny month of June than in the gloomy month of November, and throughout the whole of England the cold months do not demand nearly so many victims as the hot. In the face of these indisputable facts Von Oettingen, while rejecting the idea that there is any inexorable fatality, as Buckle believed, connected with their recurrence, is obliged to admit that the hot weather exercises a propelling influence on suicidal tendencies, and that the cold weather on the other hand acts in an opposite direction[18].


January, 732. July, 905. February, 714. August, 891. March, 840. September, 705. April, 933. October, 772. May, 1003. November, 726. June, 1022. December, 697.

Dr. Ogle, vol. xlix., 117. Statistical Society's Journal.

The influence of temperature is, however, much less powerful on crime than it is on suicide. It has the effect of raising by one third the number of persons to whom life becomes an intolerable burden, but according to the diagram in the Prison Commissioners' Reports the highest increase in crime between summer and winter does not amount to more than one twelfth. In other words, between six and eight per cent. of the crime committed in this country in summer may with reasonable certainty be attributed to the direct action of temperature. This is a most important result and I should almost hesitate to state it if it were supported by my investigations only. But this is far from being the case. In an important paper contributed to the Revista di Discipline Carcerarie for 1886, Dr. Marro, one of the most distinguished students of crime in Italy, has arrived at similar conclusions. He has shown that in the Italian prisons in the four hottest months of the Italian summer—May, June, July and August—there are also the greatest number of offences against prison discipline. This is a result which coincides in every particular with what has already been pointed out as holding good in English prisons, and the attempts of Dr. Colajanni in the second volume of his work, "La Sociologia Criminale," to explain it away are not by any means successful. It is hardly possible to conceive a more suitable form of test for estimating the effect of temperature on human action than the one afforded by a comparison of the offences committed against prison regulations at the different seasons of the year. Such a comparison amply bears out the contention that the seasons are a factor which must not be overlooked in all enquiries respecting the origin of crime, and the best methods of dealing with it.

In what way does a rise in temperature act on the individual so as to make him less capable of resisting the criminal impulse? This is a question of some difficulty, deserving more attention from physiologists than it has yet received. It is a satisfactorily established conclusion that the higher temperature of the summer months has a debilitating effect on the digestive functions; it is also believed that these months have an enervating effect on the system generally. In so far as the heat of summer produces disease, it at the same time tends to produce crime. Persons suffering from any kind of ailment or infirmity are far more liable to become criminals than are healthy members of the community. The intimate connection between disease and crime is a matter which must never be forgotten. In the present instance, however, the closeness of this connection is not sufficient to account for the growth of crime in summer. According to the Registrar General's report for 1889 the death rate in the twenty-eight large towns is less in the six months from June to November than in the six months which follow. There is, therefore, less disease at the very time when there is most crime. In the face of this fact it cannot be contended that disease, generally, pushes the population into criminal courses in summer.

But while this is so, it may yet be true that some special enfeeblement (generated by the rise of temperature) which does not assume the acute form usually implied in the name, disease has the effect of stimulating impulses of a criminal character, or of weakening the barrier which prevents these impulses from breaking out and carrying all before them. It is a perfectly well-established fact that a high temperature not only produces physical enfeeblement, but that it also impairs the usual activity and energy of the brain. In other words, a high temperature is invariably accompanied by a certain loss of mental power. In most persons this loss is comparatively trifling, and has hardly any perceptible effect on their mode of life and conduct; in others, it assumes more serious proportions. In some who are susceptible to cosmical influences, and for one reason or another are already on the borderland of crime, the decrease of mental function involved in a rise of temperature becomes a determining factor, and a criminal act is the result. Through the agency of climate the mental forces which are normally capable of holding the criminal instincts in check, lose for a time their accustomed power, and it is whilst this temporary loss endures that the person subject to it becomes most liable to be plunged into disaster. It is in this manner, in my belief, that temperature deleteriously operates upon human conduct.

The results of my investigations do not, however, bear out the commonly accepted view that crimes against property increase in the depth of winter. As far as this law relates to crime in France it may be correct; the statistical inquiries of Guerry, Ferri, and Corre point to that conclusion. On the other hand, as far as the law relates to England, I have serious doubts as to its validity. In the county of Surrey, in the year 1888-89, not only more crimes against the person, but also more crimes against property were committed in July than in January. In the former month, as compared with the latter, cases of felony increased 20 per cent.; and if Surrey is to be taken as a fairly typical English county—which there is every reason to believe it is—we have before us the remarkable fact that there are more offences against property in summer than in winter. The current opinion that winter is the most criminal period of the year is entirely fallacious, and it is extremely probable that it is equally fallacious to imagine that property is less sate when the days are short and the nights long.

But while property, on the whole, in more safe in winter than in summer, the offences committed against it in winter are, as a rule, of a more serious character. This, at least, is the conclusion which I should be inclined to draw, from the fact that there are more indictable offences—that is to say, offences not tried by a magistrate, but by a judge and jury—in the six months between October and March than in the summer six months. For the year ended September, 1888, which is an average year, there were fully 2000 more indictable offences in the winter six months than in the summer six months. As a considerable proportion of indictable offences consist in crimes against property of the nature of housebreaking and burglary, it is very probable that these crimes are most prevalent in winter. But if all kinds of offences against property, petty as well as grave, are thrown together, and calculated under one head, it comes out that these offences are most numerous in summer.

The only kind of crime that increases in Surrey in winter is vagrancy; the growth of this offence for the years I have mentioned in January, as contrasted with July was 60 per cent. The development of vagrancy in the cold months is partly owing to the fact that work is not so easily procured in the cold weather; and a certain percentage of the population, mainly dependent for subsistence on casual and irregular out-door jobs, will rather resort to begging than the workhouse, when this kind of occupation is temporarily at a standstill. This class, however, is a comparatively small one, and constitutes a very feeble proportion of the offenders against the Vagrancy Acts which swell the prison statistics in winter. Most of the offenders against these acts are people who seize the opportunity afforded by the bitter weather of appealing to the sympathies of the public. In summer the occupation of such persons is to some extent gone; in the hot sunshine their rags and piteous looks do not so strongly affect our feelings of commiseration; we know they are not suffering from cold; their petitions and entreaties accordingly fall upon deaf ears; in short, begging is not a paying trade in the hot months. In winter, all these conditions are reversed; with the first fall of snow off go the vagrant's boots, and out he runs looking the picture of misery and destitution. In an hour or two, if he escapes the attentions of the police, he has made as much as will keep him comfortably for a few days; but like many better men his success often brings about his fall; the alms of a generous public are consumed in the nearest beer-shop; sallying forth in quest of fresh booty, and made bold and insolent with drink, the beggar soon finds himself in the hands of the authorities. Anyone who cares to verify this statement can easily do so by following the reports of the police courts, and taking note of the number of convictions for drunkenness and begging—a somewhat significant combination of offences, and one which ought to make the inconsiderate giver pause.

What are the practical conclusions to be deduced from this study of the relations between temperature and crime? The first and most obvious conclusion is, that any considerable rise of temperature has a tendency, as far as Europeans and their descendants are concerned, to diminish human responsibility. Whether there are any palliatives against this tendency in the way of regimen, and what they are, is a matter for the consideration of physiologists; and a most important matter it is, for a high temperature does not merely lead to offences against the law, it also injuriously affects the conduct of children in schools, of soldiers in the army, of workmen in factories, and of the public generally in their relations with one another. While it is the task of physiologists to examine the physical aspects of the anti-social tendencies developed by variations of temperature, it is the duty of all persons placed in positions of authority to recognise their existence; and to recognise their existence not merely in others, but also in themselves. It is, unfortunately, not seldom true that justice is not administered so wisely and patiently in the burning summer heat as it is at other times. In adjudicating on criminal cases in the sultry weather, magistrates and judges would do well to remember that cosmical influences are not without their effect on human judgments, and that precipitate decisions, or decisions based upon momentary irritation, or decisions, the severity of which they may afterwards regret, are to some extent the result of those influences. The same caution is applicable to those who have to deal with convicted men; it should be remembered by them that in summer their tempers are more easily tried, while they have at the same time more to try them; and the knowledge of these facts should keep them on the alert against themselves.

While increased temperature undoubtedly decreases personal responsibility, it is a most difficult matter to decide whether this factor ought to be taken into consideration when passing sentence on criminal offenders. It is much more truly an extenuating circumstance than the majority of pleas which receive the name. In a variety of cases, such, for instance, as threats, assaults, manslaughter, murder, a high temperature unquestionably sometimes enters as a determining factor into the complex set of influences which produce these crimes. But the first difficulty confronting a judge, who endeavours to take such a factor into account, will he the difficulty of discovering whether it was present or not in the individual case he has before him. In reply to this objection it may be urged, and urged too with considerable truth, that this hindrance is not insuperable. It is possible to overcome it by noting whether the case in question stands alone, or whether it is only one among a group of others taking place about the same period. Should it turn out to be a case that stands alone, it would be fair to assume that temperature is not a cause requiring to be taken into consideration in dealing with the offender. Should it, on the contrary, turn out to be one in a group of cases, it would be equally fair to assume that temperature was not without its effect in determining the action of the offender.

Having got thus far, having isolated temperature from among the other causes, and having fixed upon it as the most potent of them all, what would immediately and imperatively follow? As a matter of course it would ensue that a person whose deeds are powerfully influenced by the action of temperature is to that extent irresponsible for them. To arrive at such a conclusion is equivalent to saying that such a person, if his offences are at all serious, constitutes a grave peril to society. In a sense, he may be less criminal, but he is certainty more dangerous; and as the supreme duty of society is self-preservation, such a person must be dealt with solely from that point of view. It would be ridiculous to let him off because he is largely irresponsible; his irresponsibility is just what constitutes his danger, and is the very reason he should be subjected to prolonged restraint.

In all offences of a trivial character presumably springing to a large extent from the action of temperature, it might be wise if the offender were only punished in such a way as would keep alive in his memory a vivid recollection of the offence. This method of punishment is better effected by a short and sharp term of imprisonment than by inflicting a longer sentence and making the prison treatment comparatively mild. A short, sharp sentence of this character has also another advantage which is well worth attention. In many cases the offender is the bread-winner of the home. The misery which follows his prolonged imprisonment is often heartrending; the home has to be sold up bit by bit; the mother has to strip off most of her scanty garments and becomes, a piteous spectacle of starvation and rags, the childrens' things have to go to the pawnshop; and it is fortunate if one or two of the family does not die before the husband is released. The misery which crime brings upon the innocent is the saddest of its features, and whatever society can do consistently with its own welfare to shorten or mitigate that misery, ought, in the interests of our common humanity, to be done.

One word with reference to offences which do not come within the cognisance of the criminal law. I do not know if there are any statistics to show that, in schools, in workshops, in the army, or, indeed, in any industry or institution where bodies of people are massed together under one common head—there are more cases of insubordination and more offences against discipline when the temperature is high than in ordinary circumstances. But, whether such a statistical record exists or not, there can be little doubt that cases of refractory conduct prevail most largely in the warm season. It would therefore be well if this fact were borne in mind by all persons whose duty it is to enforce discipline and require obedience. Considering that there are certain cosmical influences at work, which make it note difficult for the ordinary human being to submit to discipline, it might not be inexpedient, in certain cases, to take these unusual conditions into account and not to enforce in their full rigour all the penalties involved in a breach of rules. It is a universal experience that many things which can ordinarily be done without fatigue or trouble, become, at times, a burden and a source of irritation. Some physical disturbance is at the root of this change, and a similar disturbance is also at the root of the defective standard of conduct which a high temperature almost invariably succeeds in producing among some sections of the community.



Under this heading I shall discuss some of the more important social factors which either directly or indirectly tend to produce crime. It will be impossible to discuss them all. The action of society upon the individual is so complex, its effects are so varied, in many instances so impalpable, that we must content ourselves with a survey of those social phenomena which are most generally credited with leading up to acts of delinquency.

It is very commonly believed that destitution is a powerful factor in the production of crime; we shall therefore start upon this inquiry by considering the extent to which destitution is responsible for offences against person and property. A definition of what is meant by destitution will assist in clearing the ground. It is a definition which is not at all difficult to formulate; one destitute person is remarkably like another, and what applies to one applies with a considerable degree of accuracy to all. We shall, therefore, define a destitute person as a person who is without house or home, who has no work, who is able and willing to work but can get none, and has nothing but starvation staring him in the face. Is any serious amount of crime due to the desperation of people in a position such as this? In order to answer this question it is necessary, in the first place, to ask what kind of crime such persons will be most likely to commit. It is most improbable that they will be crimes against the person, such as homicide or assault; it will not be drunkenness, because, on the assumption of their destitution, they will possess no money to spend. In short, the offences a person in a state of destitution is most likely to commit are begging and theft. What proportion of the total volume of crime is due to these two offense? This is the first question we shall have to answer. The second is, to what extent are begging and theft the results of destitution? An adequate elucidation of these two points will supply a satisfactory explanation of the part played by destitution in the production of crime.

The total number of cases tried in England and Wales either summarily or on indictment during the year 1887-88 amounted to 726,698. Out of this total eight per cent. were cases of offences against property excluding cases of malicious damage, and seven per cent. consisted of offences against the Vagrancy Acts. Putting these two classes of offences together we arrive at the result that out of a total number of crimes of all kinds committed in England and Wales, 15 per cent. may conceivably be due to destitution. This is a very serious percentage, and if it actually represented the number of persons who commit crime from sheer want of the elementary necessaries of life, the confession would have to be made that the economic condition of the country was deplorable. But is it a fact that destitution in the sense we have been using the word is the cause of all these offences? This is the next question we have to solve, and the answer springing from it will reveal the true position of the case.

Let us deal first with offences against property. As has just been pointed out these constitute eight per cent. of the annual amount of crime. But according to inquiries which I have made, one half of the annual number of offenders against property, so far from being in a state of destitution, were actually at work, and earning wages at the time of their arrest. Nor in this surprising. The daily newspapers have only to be consulted to confirm it. In a very great number of instances the records of criminal proceedings testify to the fact that the person charged is in some way or other defrauding his employer, and when these cases are deducted from the total of offences against property, it considerably lessons the percentage of persons driven by destitution into the ranks of crime. Add to these the great bulk of juvenile offenders convicted of theft, and that peculiar class of people who steal, not because they are in distress, but merely from a thievish disposition, and it will he manifest that half the cases of theft in England and Wales are not due to the pressure of absolute want.

But what shall be said of the other half which still represents four per cent. of the annual amount of crime. According to the calculations just referred to, the offenders constituting this percentage were not in work when the crimes charged against them were committed. Was it destitution arising from want of employment which led them to break the law? At first sight one may easily be inclined to say that it is. These people, it will be argued, have no work and no money. What are they to do but beg or steal? Before jumping at this conclusion it must not be forgotten that there is such a person as the habitual criminal. The habitual criminal, as he will very soon tell you if you possess his confidence absolutely, declines to work. He never has worked, he does not want work; he prefers living by his wits. With the recollection of imprisonment fresh upon him an offender of this description may in rare instances take employment for a short period, but the regularity of life which work entails is more than he can bear, and the old occupation of thieving is again resorted to. To live by plundering the community is the trade of the habitual criminal; it is the only business he truly cares for, and it is wonderful how long and how often he will succeed in eluding the suspicion and vigilance of the police. Of course, offenders of this class, when arrested, say they are out of work, and will very readily make an unwary person believe that it is destitution which drives them to desperation. But as was truly remarked a short time ago by a judge in one of the London courts, nearly all of these very men are able to pay high fees to experienced counsel to defend them. After these observations, it will be seen that the habitual criminal, the man who lives by burglary, housebreaking, shoplifting, and theft of every description, is not to be classed among the destitute. Criminals of this character constitute at least two per cent. of the delinquents annually brought before the courts.

Respecting the two per cent. of offenders which remain to be accounted for, it will not be far from the mark to say that destitution is the immediate cause of their wrong-doing. These offenders are composed of homeless boys, of old men unable to work, of habitual drunkards who cannot got a steady job, or keep it when they get it, of vagrants who divide their time between begging and petty theft, and of workmen on the tramp, who have become terribly reduced, and will rather steal than enter a workhouse. The percentage of these offenders varies in different parts of the country. In the north of England, for instance, there are comparatively few homeless boys who find their way before the magistrates on charges of theft; in London, on the other hand, the number is considerable, and ranges according to the season of the year, or the state of trade, to between 1 and 3 per cent. of the criminal population. Why does London enjoy such an evil pre-eminence in this matter? In my opinion it often arises from the fact that house-accommodation is so expensive in the metropolis. In London, it is a habit with many parents, owing to the want of room at home, to make growing lads shift for themselves at a very early age. These boys earn just enough to enable them to secure a bare existence; out of their scanty wages it is impossible to hire a room for themselves; they have to be contented with the common lodging-house. In such places these boys have to associate with all sorts of broken-down, worthless characters, and in numbers of instances they come by degrees to adopt the habits and modes of life of the class among which their lot is cast. At the very time parental control is most required it is almost entirely withdrawn; the lad is left to his own devices; and, in too many cases, descends into the ranks of crime. The first step in his downward career begins with the loss of employment; this sometimes happens through no fault of his own, and is simply the result of a temporary slackness of trade; but in most instances a job is lost for want of punctuality or some other boyish irregularity which can only be properly corrected at home. To lose work is to be deprived of the means of subsistence; the only openings left are the workhouse or crime. It is the latter alternative which is generally chosen, and thus, the lad is launched on the troubled sea of crime.

It must not be understood that all London boys drift into crime after the manner I have just described. In some instances these unfortunates have lived all their life in criminal neighbourhoods, and merely follow the footsteps of the people around them. What, for instance, is to be expected from children living in streets such as Mr. Charles Booth describes in his work on "Life and Labour in East London?" One of these streets, which he calls St. Hubert Street, swarms with children, and in hardly any case does the family occupy more than one room. The general character of the street is thus depicted. "An awful place; the worst street in the district. The inhabitants are mostly of the lowest class, and seem to lack all idea of cleanliness or decency .... The children are rarely brought up to any kind of work, but loaf about, and, no doubt, form the nucleus for future generations of thieves and other bad characters." In this street alone there are between 160 and 170 children; these children do not require to go to lodging-houses to be contaminated; they breathe a polluted moral atmosphere from birth upwards, and it is more than probable that a considerable proportion of them will help to recruit the army of crime. It is not destitution which will force them into this course, but their up-bringing and surroundings.

In addition to homeless boys who steal from destitution, there are, as I have said, a number of decrepit old men who do the same. There is a period in a workman's life when he becomes too feeble to do an average day's work. When this period arrives employers of labour often discharge him in order to make way for younger and more vigorous men. If his home, as sometimes happens, is broken up by the death of his wife, his existence becomes a very lonely and precarious one. An odd job now and again is all he can get to do, and even these jobs are often hard to find. His sons and daughters are too heavily encumbered with large families to be capable of rendering any effective assistance, and the Union looms gloomily in the distance as the only prospect before the worn-out worker. But it sometimes happens that he will not face that prospect. He will rather steal and run the risk of imprisonment. And so it comes to pass that for a year or two before finally reconciling himself to the Union, the aged workman will lead a wandering, criminal life on a petty scale; he becomes an item in the statistics of offenders against property.

Habitual drunkards form another class who sometimes steal from destitution. The well-known irregularity of these men's habits prevents them, in a multitude of cases, from getting work, and unfortunately, they cannot keep it when they do get it. Employers cannot depend on them; as soon as they earn a few shillings they disappear from the workshop till the money is spent on drink. It is at such times that they are arrested for being drunk and disorderly. As they can never pay a fine they have to go to prison, but long before their sentence has expired they have lost their job, and must look out for something else. If such men do not find work many of them are not ashamed to steal, and it is only when trade is at flood-tide that they can be sure of employment, no matter how irregular their habits may be. At other times they are the first to be discharged and the last to be engaged. It is not really destitution, but intemperance which turns them into thieves. That they are destitute when arrested is perfectly true, but we must go behind the immediate fact of their destitution in order to arrive at the true causes of their crimes. When this is done it is found that the stress of economic conditions has very little to do with making these unhappy beings what they are; on the contrary, it is in periods of prosperity that they sink to the lowest depths.

Summing up the results of this inquiry into the relations between destitution and offences against property, we arrive as nearly as possible at the following figures, so far as England and Wales are concerned:—

——————————————————————————————————- Proportion of offences against property to total offences: 8. p. cent. —- Thus divided: Proportion of offenders in work when arrested: 4. p. cent. Proportion of offenders, habitual thieves: 2. p. cent. Proportion of offenders, homeless lads and old men: 1. p. cent. Proportion of offenders, drunkards, tramps: 1. p. cent. —- 8. p. cent. ——————————————————————————————————-

We shall now proceed to an examination of offences against the Vagrancy Acts presumably arising from destitution. It has already been pointed out that seven per cent. of the annual amount of crime committed in England and Wales consists of offences against the Vagrancy Acts, and it now remains for us to inquire whether these offences are the result of destitution, or what part destitution plays in producing them.

Out of the 52,136 offenders against the Vagrancy Acts in the year 1888, less than one half (45 per cent.) were charged with begging; the other offences consisted principally in prostitution, in having implements of housebreaking, in frequenting places of public resort to commit felony, in being found on enclosed premises for unlawful purposes. In all these cases, with the exception of prostitution, it is not probable that destitution had much, if anything, to do with inducing the offenders to violate the law. Men who live the life of incorrigible rogues, who prowl about enclosed premises, who lead a mysterious existence, without doing any work, are not to be classed among the destitute; as a general rule, such persons are habitual thieves and vagabonds, who persist in the life they have adopted merely because it suits them best. One of the great difficulties in dealing with persons of this stamp is their hatred of a well-ordered existence; in a vast number of cases the life they live is the only kind of life they thoroughly enjoy; it is a profound mistake to imagine that they are pining for what are usually regarded as the decencies and comforts of human beings. Nothing is further from their thoughts. Let us alone and mind your own business is the secret sentiment and often the open avowal of most of these people. "We should be miserable living according to your ideas; let us live according to our own." It is very common for benevolent people to assume that the objects of their compassion and solicitude are, in reality, as wretched as they imagine them to be. Living themselves in ease, and it may be affluence, and surrounded by all the amenities of existence, it is difficult for them to realise that multitudes can enjoy a rude kind of happiness in the absence of all this. Such, however, is the fact. The vagabond class is not more miserable than any other; it is, of course, not without its sorrows, vicissitudes, and troubles, but what section of the community is free from these ills? This class has even a philosophy adapted to its circumstances, the fundamental articles of which have been once for all summed up in the lines of Burns:—

"Life is all a variorum; We regard not how it goes, Let them cant about decorum Who have characters to lose."

What has just been said respecting the loafing, thieving vagabond applies in a very great measure to the ordinary beggar. The habitual beggar is a person who will not work. He hates anything in the shape of regular occupation, and will rather put up with severe hardships than settle down to the ordinary life of a working-man. It would be easy to adduce instances to demonstrate the accuracy of what is here stated. It would be easy to mention cases by the hundred, in which men addicted to begging have been thoroughly fitted out and started in life, but all to no purpose. Once a man fairly takes to begging, as a means of livelihood, it is almost hopeless attempting to cure him. After a time he loses the capacity for labour; his faculties, for want of exercise, become blunted and powerless, and he remains a beggar to the end of his days. It sometimes happens that the beggar who has taken to mendicancy as a profession is obliged to go to the workhouse as a kind of temporary refuge. This is not so frequent considering the sort of life a vagrant has to lead; but when it does occur, the labour-master of the Union very often finds it next to impossible to got him to perform the task every able-bodied person is expected to complete when taking shelter in a Casual Ward. As a result the habitual beggar has sometimes to appear before the magistrates as a refractory pauper, but a short sentence of imprisonment, which usually follows, has lost all its terrors for him; he prefers enduring it to doing the task allotted to him at the workhouse.

From this it will be seen that habits of indolence, and not the stress of destitution, are responsible for a great deal of the begging which goes on in England; but these habits are not answerable for the whole of it. When times are bad begging has a decided tendency to increase, and this arises from the fact that a considerable proportion of the community possess wonderfully few resources within themselves. Even in depressed times it is astonishing how well men who can turn their hand, as it is called, can manage to live. Men of this stamp are not beaten and rendered helpless by the misfortune of losing their usual employment; they are capable of devising fresh methods of earning a livelihood; they are persistent, persevering, energetic; they are not content to stand by with their hands in their pockets and their back at the wall; at times they even create an occupation, and devise new wants for the community. Such men exist in large numbers among the working population, and are able to tide over periods of slackness and depression in a truly admirable way. But there are others who are utterly lost the moment trade ceases to flourish. As soon as they lose the job they have been accustomed to work at they at once sink into a condition of complete helplessness; knowing not which way to move or what steps to take; in a very short time they are to be found soliciting alms in the streets. It is a very serious matter when such persons are reduced to these straits. With the advent of better times it is often very difficult to enrol them once again in the ranks of industry. Bad habits have been acquired, self-respect has broken down, the mind has become accustomed to a lower plane of existence; the danger has arisen that persons who were to begin with only beggars by accident may end by becoming beggars from choice. This is what actually does happen in some instances, and especially where the level of life and comfort has at all times been low. The transition from the one state to the other is not a very pronounced one, and the step into the position of a habitual beggar is not hard to take after a certain number of lessons in the mendicant's art have once been learnt. In one sense it is the pressure of want which has made these people beggars, in another sense it is their own apathy and feebleness of resource.

It is not easy to estimate the number of persons who become habitual mendicants in consequence of slackness of work and the temporary loss of employment. As a matter of fact the whole body of statistical information bearing upon vagrancy is rather unreliable in character, and it is difficult to see how it can be anything else. In almost all cases of begging the initiative is taken by the police; it very seldom happens that a private citizen gives a beggar in charge. The regular and systematic enforcement of the Vagrancy Acts by the public authorities is impeded by a variety of causes, each of which makes it difficult to grasp accurately the proportions of the begging population. In the first place no two policemen enforce the law with the same stringency; one is inclined to be lax and lenient, while another will not allow a single case to escape. In some districts chief constables do not care to bring too many begging cases before the local magistrates; in other districts chief constables are zealous for the rooting out of vagrancy. In some counties the magistrates themselves are not so anxious to convict for vagrancy as they are in others; where the latter tendency prevails, the police take their cue from the magistrates and comparatively few offences against the Vagrancy Acts are brought up for trial. Again, there are times when the public have fits of indulgence towards beggars, which are counterbalanced at other periods by a corresponding access of severity; these oscillations of public sentiment are immediately felt by the executive authorities. The conduct of policemen and magistrates towards the begging fraternity is largely shaped by the dominant public mood, and the statistics of vagrancy move up and down in sympathy with it. Thus it comes to pass that the variations which take place in the annual statistics of vagrancy do not necessarily correspond with the growth or diminution of the number of persons following this mode of life; the actual number of such persons in the population may in reality be varying very little or, perhaps, remaining stationary, whilst official statistics are pointing to the conclusion that important changes are going on. In short, the statistics of vagrancy are more useful as affording a clue to the state of public sentiment with respect to this offence than as offering an accurate test of the extent to which vagrancy prevails.

After this explanation it will be seen how difficult it is, in the first place, to estimate the exact numbers of the vagrant population; and, in the next place, the exact proportion of beggars who have been driven into the ranks of vagrancy, as a result of bad trade and inability to obtain work. My own impression is, that the number of persons who are forced to beg for want of work is not large, and they consist, for the most part, of men beyond middle life or verging upon old age. There are two causes at present in operation in England which often press hard upon such men. The first of these causes is one which was felt more severely twenty or thirty years ago than at the present moment—I moan the introduction of machinery into industries formerly carried on to a large extent by hand. One of the most conspicuous characteristics of the present century is the ever-increasing extent to which inventions of all kinds have invaded almost every department of industry. As far as the young are concerned, those inventions have been on the whole a benefit, and what used to be hard work has become, as Professor Alfred Marshall recently said, merely looking on. But the case stands differently with workmen who are surprised by some new invention at a period of life when the power of adaptability to a fresh set of industrial circumstances is almost entirely gone. One of the first consequences of a new invention may be, and often is, that work which had hitherto been performed by men can now be done by women and boys; or an occupation which had formerly taken years to learn can now be mastered in a few weeks. In other cases the new machine is able to do the work of twenty, fifty, or a hundred men; the article produced is so immensely cheapened that the old handicraftsman is driven out of the field; if he is a man entering into years, and therefore unable to turn his hand to something else, the bread is practically taken out of his mouth, and the machine, which is undoubtedly a benefit to the community as a whole, means starvation to him as an individual. When such circumstances occur, and positive proof in abundance can be adduced to show that they do take place, the position of the aged worker becomes a very hard and embarrassing one. He finds it a very uphill task to change the whole course of his industrial activities at a period of life when nature has lost much of her elasticity; the new means he has had to adopt in order to earn a livelihood are irksome to him; the diminished sum he is now able to earn per week depresses his spirits and deprives him of certain little comforts he had long been accustomed to enjoy; but in spite of these unforeseen and unexpected hardships it is marvellous to see how nobly working-men, as a rule, struggle on to the end, like a bird with a broken wing. There are, however, cases in which the struggle is given up. It would be impossible to enumerate all the causes which lead to such a deplorable result; sometimes these causes are personal, sometimes they are social, while in many instances they are a combination of both. But, whatever such circumstances may be in origin, the effects of them are generally the same; the worker who is incapable of adjusting himself to his new industrial surroundings has few alternatives before him. These alternatives, unless he is supported by his family or relations, resolve themselves into the Union, beggary, or theft. Many choose the Union and, with all its drawbacks, it is undoubtedly the wisest choice; but others have such a horror of the restraints imposed upon the inmates of a workhouse that they enter upon the perilous and precarious career of the beggar or petty thief. The men who make such a choice as this are not, as may easily be surmised, the pick of their class. They consist, to a good extent, of persons who have been somewhat unsteady in their habits; they are not downright drunkards, and they have never allowed drink to interfere with their regular occupation; but it has been their immemorial custom to go in for a good deal of drinking on Saturday nights; on Bank holidays, and other festive occasions. Sensible workmen do not care to amuse themselves after this fashion; it is rather too like a savage orgie for most tastes; at the same time it is the only form of amusement which certain sections of the populace truly and heartily enjoy, and, on the whole, it is perhaps better that this rude form of merry-making should remain, than that the multitude should be deprived of every outlet for the pent-up exuberance of their spirits. My own impression is, that the rough and boisterous element which shows itself so conspicuously when the labouring population is at play will never be eradicated so long as men and women have to spend so much of their time within the four walls of workshops and factories, where so much restraint and suppression of the individual is imperative, if the industrial machine is to go on. It is not at all unnatural that the severe regularity and monotony of an existence chiefly spent in this manner should be occasionally interspersed with outbursts of somewhat boisterous revelry, and the persons who indulge in it are not to be set down off-hand as worthless characters, because they sometimes step beyond due and proper bounds. At the same time it must be admitted that it is generally from the ranks of this class that the supreme aversion to the workhouse proceeds, and that the disposition to live by begging, rather than enter it, most largely prevails. If it happens, therefore, that a man who has lived the life we have just described is thrown out of employment, by the introduction of machinery, at a period when he is too old to turn his hand to something else, he not unfrequently ends by becoming a beggar, and this continues to be his occupation to the last.

The second cause which leads a certain number of elderly men to adopt a life of vagrancy is to be attributed to the action of Trades-Unions. After a workman reaches a certain period of life he is no longer able to do a full day's work. As soon as this period of life arrives, and sometimes even before it does arrive, the artisan finds it becoming increasingly difficult to obtain employment. The rate of wages in his trade is fixed by Trades-Union rules; every man, no matter what his qualifications may be, has to receive so much an hour, or the full Trade-Union wage for the district; no one is allowed to take a job at a lower figure. No doubt Trades-Unionists find that this regulation works well an far as it relates to the young and the able-bodied, and as these always compose the great majority in every trade society, it is a regulation which is not likely to be rescinded or modified. Nevertheless, it is a rule which often operates very unjustly in the case of men who are getting old. These men may have been steady and industrious workmen all their lives, they may still be able to do a fair amount of honest work; but, as soon as that amount of work falls below the daily average of the trade, such men have to go; they are henceforth practically debarred from earning an honest livelihood at what has hitherto been the occupation of their working life. Work may be abundant in the district, but it is useless for grey-haired men to apply; they cannot do the amount required, and as they are not permitted to work at a lower rate of wages than their fellows, the means of getting a living are arbitrarily taken out of their hands. As a consequence of these Trades-Union enactments, cases are not infrequent in which workmen who have just passed middle life, or have sustained injuries, drift insensibly into vagrant habits. These habits are acquired almost without their knowing it. In the vague hope of perhaps finding something to do a man will wander from town to town existing as best he can; after the hope of employment has died away he still continues to wander, and thus forms an additional unit in the permanent army of beggars and vagrants. Trade-Unionists would undoubtedly remedy a great wrong if some effective means were devised by them to meet cases of this character. It should be remembered by those most opposed to any modifications of the present system that they may one day be its victims. The hindrances in the way of putting an end to the injustice inherent in the present arrangements are not incapable of being overcome. It is surely possible to devise a rule which, while leaving intact the essential features of the present system, will render it more flexible—a rule to enable the maimed and the aged who cannot do a full day's work to make, through the Union if need be, some special arrangement with the employers. Such a rule, if properly safe-guarded to prevent abuse, would be of inestimable benefit to many a working man.

If the step here suggested were adopted by the Trade Societies, it would, according to calculations which I have made, reduce the begging population by about two per cent. This percentage, in my opinion, represents the number of vagrants who are able and willing to do a certain amount of work, but cannot get it to do. It is a percentage which at any rate does not err on the side of being too low; when trade is at its ordinary level it is perhaps a little too high. In any case this proportion may be taken as a tolerably accurate estimate of the numbers of the vagrant class which will not enter the Unions when out of employment, and are consequently forced by the pressure of want to resort to a life of beggary.

The proportion here indicated of the number of vagrants who are willing to work coincides in a remarkable manner with certain statistics recently collected by H. Monod of the Ministry of the Interior in France.[19] According to M. Monod a benevolently disposed French citizen wished to know the amount of truth contained in the complaints of sturdy beggars, that they were willing to work if they could get anything to do or anyone to employ them. This gentleman entered into negotiations with some merchants and manufacturers, and induced them to offer work at the rate of four francs a day to every person presenting himself furnished with a letter of recommendation from him. In eight months 727 sturdy beggars came under his notice, all complaining that they had no work. Each of them was asked to come the following day to receive a letter which would enable him to get employment at four francs a day in an industrial establishment. More than one half (415) never came for the letter; a good many others (138) returned for the letter but never presented it. Others who did present their letter worked half a day, demanded two francs and were seen no more. A few worked a whole day and then disappeared. In short, out of the whole 727 only 18 were found at work at the end of the third day. As a result of this experiment M. Monod concludes that not more than one able-bodied beggar in 40 is inclined to work even if he is offered a fair remuneration for his services.

[19] Cf. L'Etat Moderne et ses Functions par Paul Leroy Beaulieu, p. 300. See also Mr. J.C. Sherrard's letter to the Times of January 8th, 1891, on "Tramps."

If further proof were wanted that vagrancy, as far, at least, as England and Wales are concerned, is very seldom produced by destitution, it will be found in the following facts. A comparison between the number of male and female vagrants arrested in 1888 under the provisions of the Vagrancy Acts shows that there were nearly four times more male vagrants proceeded against before the magistrates than female. The exact numbers are males, 40,672; females, 11,464. Although the numbers charged vary from year to year, the proportion between males and females always remains very much the same, and it may therefore be considered as established that men are from three to four times more addicted to vagrancy than women. If the charges of prostitution were excluded (they amounted to 6,486 in 1888), it will be found that the proportion of male vagrants to female is as eight to one. Looking at this matter a priori, we should expect these figures to be reversed. In the first place women form a considerably larger proportion of the community than men, and in the second place there are not nearly so many openings for females in our present industrial system. Forming a judgment upon these two sets of facts alone, one would almost inevitably come to the conclusion that women would be found in much larger numbers among the vagrant class than men. There are fewer careers open to them in the industrial world; they are less fitted to move about from place to place in search of work; the pay they receive in manufacturing and other establishments is, as a rule, very poor; but in spite of all these economic disadvantages only one woman becomes a beggar to every four men, or, if we exclude fallen women, to every eight men. What does this condition of things serve to show? It is an incontestable proof that at least three-fourths or, perhaps, seven-eighths of the begging carried on by men is without economic excuse. If women who are so heavily handicapped in the race of life can run it to such a large extent without resorting to vagrancy, so can men. That men fall so far behind women in this respect is to be attributed, as we have seen, not to their want of power, but to their want of will. They possess far more opportunities of earning a livelihood than their sisters, but, notwithstanding this advantage, they figure far more prominently in the vagrant list. The only possible explanation of this state of things is that vagrancy is, to a very large extent, entirely unconnected with economic conditions; the position of trade either for good or evil is a very secondary factor in producing this disease in the body politic; its extirpation would not he effected by the advent of an economic millennium; its roots are, as a rule, in the disposition of the individual, and not to any serious degree in the industrial constitution of society; hence, the only way to stamp it out is by adopting vigorous and effective methods of repression.

The British Isles are in a position to adopt these measures with boldness and confidence, for the Poor Law system provides for all genuine cases of destitution, and in striking at begging with a heavy hand, the authorities are at the same time doing much to suppress other kinds of crime. It has to be remembered that the vagrant is a dangerous person in more ways that one. The life he leads, his habit of going from house to house, affords him ample opportunities of noticing where a robbery may he successfully committed. If he does not make use of the opportunities himself, he is not at all unwilling to let others who will into his secret for a small consideration. In low lodging-houses and public-houses of a similar type beggars and thieves are accustomed to meet, to fraternise, to exchange notes; the beggar is able to give the burglar a hint, and many a case of house-breaking is the outcome of these sinister confabulations. Little do many people imagine when they are doing a good deed, as they believe, to some worthless, wandering reprobate, that he is at the same moment looking around, so as to be able to tell a companion how best the house may be robbed. It is very seldom thieves break into houses without having received information beforehand respecting them, and the source of that information is in many instances the vagrant, who has been knocking at the door for alms a short time before.

One of the principal reasons which makes beggary such a profitable occupation, and renders it so hard to repress, is the persistent belief among great numbers of people that beggars are working men in distress. That, of course, is the beggar's tale, but it is a baseless fabrication. It is no more the practice of working-men to go about begging than it is the practice of the middle-class, but until this elementary fact can be laid hold of by the public all statutory enactments for the suppression of mendicity will be but partial in their operation. Speaking from considerable personal experience, as well as from statistical facts, one is able to affirm that the great mass of the working population of these islands have nothing whatever in common with the indolent vagrant; and it is a libel on the working-classes to assume that a man is a workman to-day and a beggar to-morrow. As a matter of fact, beggars are recruited from all ranks of the community, when they are not actually born to the trade. Of course, the greatest number is drawn from the working population; it is they who form the immense bulk of the nation, and it is only reasonable to suppose that they will contribute to the begging fraternity in proportion to their numbers. But, just as the proportion of thieves drawn from the working-classes is not greater than the proportion drawn from the well-to-do classes, so is it likewise with beggars. The other classes, in proportion to their numbers, contribute just about as many beggars to the community as the working population, and such beggars are generally the most hardened and villainous specimens of their tribe. With the beggar sprung from the working population one is sometimes able to do something, but a beggar who has descended from the higher walks of life is one of the most hopeless, as well as one of the most corrupt creatures it is possible to conceive. If the public would only allow themselves to realise that these are the facts respecting vagrancy, and if they would exercise their knowledge in consistently refusing help to professional wanderers, the plague of beggars would soon disappear, to the immense relief and benefit of everybody, not excluding the beggars themselves.

A persistent refusal to assist beggars, while perfectly justifiable in these islands, is a method which can hardly be adopted in countries where there is no efficient and comprehensive Poor Law. In such countries, for instance, an Austria and Germany, where there is no proper provision on the part of the State for the feeble, the helpless, the aged, the maimed, begging, on the part of these unfortunates, becomes, in many cases, an absolute necessity. Recent statistics,[20] respecting the working of additions to the Austrian vagrancy laws passed in 1885, would seem to show that numbers of the genuine labouring population have been in the habit of resorting to begging when going from place to place in search of employment. To meet these cases the Austrian Government, in the year just mentioned, secured the passing of a law for the establishment of what are called Naturalverpflegstationen, or refuges for workmen on the tramp. These shelters or refuges are strictly confined to the use of genuine labourers; the poor of the surrounding neighbourhood are not allowed to enter them; nor is any one afforded shelter who cannot show that he has been at work within the previous three months, or who applies twice for admission in the course of that time. A man must also produce his papers and be willing to perform a certain amount of work; in return for this he is allowed to remain at the shelter for eighteen hours, but not more, and is informed on his departure where the next station is situated. He is also told if there is any probability of getting employment in the district and is given the names of employers in want of men. These institutions are a combination, of the casual ward and the labour bureau, differing, however, from the casual ward in rejecting all mere wanderers and accepting genuine workmen alone.

[20] Cf. Conrad's Handwoerterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, i. 928.

It in only in some parts of the Austrian Empire that this system has as yet been put into operation, for the act is of a permissive character and is mainly worked by the local authorities. In those districts of lower Austria where it has been tried, it has so far produced most satisfactory results; begging has decreased according to the statistics for 1888, more than 60 per cent. in the course of three years, while in other parts of Austria, where these institutions are not yet adopted, it has only decreased 25 per cent. The system has as yet been in operation for too short a period to enable an opinion to be formed of its eventual success, but so far it promises well and is an interesting experiment which deserves to be watched. In any case the experience derived from the working of this law shows that in Austria, at least, the workman in search of employment has up till recently been too often confounded with the habitual beggar, a confusion highly detrimental to the real interests of the State. One of the main objects of every well ordered Poor Law system should be to create as wide a gulf as possible between the begging class and the working-class; it should do everything possible to prevent anything like a solidarity of interests between these two sections of the community; it should dissociate the worker from the vagrant in every conceivable manner, so that the working population cannot possibly fail to see that the State draws a sharp line of distinction between them and the refuse of the land. It was a wise remark of Goethe's that, if you want to improve men you must begin by assuming that they are a little better than what they seem; and it is a principle which is applicable to communities and classes as well as to individuals.

Before dismissing the question of the relations between vagrancy and destitution there is one more point which still requires to be considered. According to English law, prostitution is set down as a form of vagrancy, and the number of persons convicted of this offence is to be found included in the statistics of vagrancy. We shall, therefore, consider prostitution in this connection as a form of vagrancy, and proceed to examine the extent to which it is produced by destitution. If this grave social disorder were entirely due to a want of the elementary needs of life on the part of the unhappy creatures who practice it, we should find an utter absence of it in America and Australia. In these two important portions of the globe, woman's work is at a premium; it is one of the easiest things imaginable for females to get employment; no one willing to work need remain idle a single day, and the bitter cry of householders, in those quarters of the world, is that domestic servants are not to be had. But, in spite of the favourable position in which women stand, as far as work is concerned in America and Australia, what do we find? Do we find that there is no such thing as a fallen class in Melbourne and New York? On the contrary, it is often a subject of bitter complaint by American and Australian citizens that their large towns are just as bad, as far as sexual morality goes, as the cities of the old world. The higher economic position of women does not seem to touch the evil either in the Antipodes or beyond the Atlantic. It exists among communities where destitution is an almost unmeaning word; it exists in lands where no woman need be idle, and where she is highly paid for her services. In the face of such facts it is impossible to believe that destitution is the only motive which impels a certain class of women to wander the streets.

What is true with respect to destitution is that it compels women to remain in the deplorable life they have adopted, but it seldom or never drives them to take to it. Almost all the best authorities are agreed upon this point. No one has examined this social sin in all its bearings with such patience and exhaustiveness as Parent Duchatelet, and his deliberate opinion, after years of investigation, is that its origin lies in the character of the individual, in vanity, in slothfulness, in sex. It does not, however, follow that a person possessing these characteristics in an abnormal degree is bound to fall. If such a person is protected by parental care, no evil results need necessarily ensue. It is when low instincts are combined with a bad home that the worst is to be feared. This fact was clearly and emphatically brought to light by the parliamentary inquiry which took place in France a few years ago. M. Th. Roussel, one of the highest authorities on the committee, the man, in fact, from whom the inquiry derived its name, thus sums up some of its results: "However large a part in the production of prostitution must be allowed to the love of pleasure and of finery, to a dislike of work and to debased instincts, the cause which, according to the facts cited, appears everywhere as the most powerful and the most general, is the want of a home, the want of maternal care." Here are some of the facts on which M. Roussel bases his general statement. "At Bordeaux, out of 600 'filles inscrites' 98 were minors. Of the latter, 44 appear to have fallen through their own fault alone. The remaining 54 grew up under abnormal, domestic conditions; 14 were orphans, without father or mother, 7 had only one parent, 32 had been abandoned or perverted by their parents."

In England it would be impossible to conduct a parliamentary inquiry on the lines of the "Enquete Roussel," but it is very probable if such an inquiry were instituted it would reveal a condition of things very similar to what exists in France. The scattered and fragmentary information we do possess points to that conclusion, and the conclusion, it must be admitted, is not at all a hopeful or comforting one. Supposing that all the homeless and deserted female children we have now in our midst were immediately placed under the protection of the State (as a matter of fact, most of them are), it does not follow that they will grow up to lead regular lives. According to the thirty-second report of the Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, the authorities are unable to account satisfactorily for the character of more than four fifths of the inmates of girls' industrial schools who have left these institutions on an average for two or three years. That is to say, it is probable that about twenty out of every hundred girls go to the bad within two or three years of leaving an industrial school. The proportion of girls discharged from reformatory schools, whose character is bad within two years of their discharge, is still larger than in the case of industrial schools. This is only what might be expected, for it is the worst cases that are now sent to reformatory schools. "Since the passing of the Elementary Education Act," said Miss Nicoll of the Girls' Reformatory, Hampstead, at the Fourth Conference of the National Association of certified Reformatory and Industrial Schools, "a great change has gradually been made in the character and age of the inmates of our reformatories on admission. The School Boards in the country, and more especially the School Board of London, by enforcing compulsory attendance of all the children of the poor between the ages of five and thirteen, have swept into what are termed Truant Schools all the neglected and uncontrollable children who were formerly sent to certified industrial schools—these latter being now retained in a great measure for children who, besides being neglected and beyond the control of their parents, have either taken their first steps in a course of crime, or have, by association with vicious companions, become familiar with it. The industrial schools have thus intercepted the very class from which our numbers were usually drawn, leaving, as a rule, for reformatories, girls about fifteen, who, though nominally under fifteen, are sometimes a good deal older when admitted. Young persons, as these are termed in the Summary Jurisdiction Acts of 1879, are of a much more hardened character than before, and in addition to having been guilty of acts of petty larceny, have frequently been prostitutes for some time anterior to their admission. This being so, it can hardly be wondered at if the success of reformatories is not so marked as it was when they were first instituted."

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